Monday, May 12, 2014

Blowing the dust off

Those of you who are left on the distribution list just got an e-mail stating there was a new post from this site. I assure you it's not junk mail. For over 2 years I've let this site lay dormant, and it's been months since I've looked at the account. But I thought I would give it a gander and see what was up. After all, the grass is cut, the 4 year old is napping, the wife is at work, and the other kids are at school. Needless to say, I'm up to no good. I am giving strong consideration into actually writing some more. But this time it'll be different, and I'll get to that part in a little while.

 I can't lie to ya, for a long time I really used my efforts here trying to make a name for myself, and in some ways I did. I fed off of the fact that the readership grew way past where I thought it ever would. I tried to write more and more, stay relevant, get more likes therefore increasing my page views, get my name out there, and go off and be somebody. I ranted, wrote about hot topics, and stayed visible. It wore me down. Then I left it, and I wrote a bit for some jam up people, got a few articles published, and then simply vanished. A lot of people wondered why. I just couldn't stand it any more. I met some awesome people with whom I'll remain friends until I take my last breath upon this earth. I met some real douchebags too, and frankly I was becoming one of them.

 Today's fire service is so different that it ever has been. Everything is online, info is available at hand, and anybody can have their say on any thing. Being honest with you (I always have), a lot of the big arena stuff you see is more of a popularity contest than anything else. I don't buy into that. Yes, the major players in this game crank out more good information now that they ever have, but let's face it, if you ain't writing, lecturing, posting shit loads of pictures online, sharing, liking, and getting your hands in the visible part of the fire service then how do you expect people to know who you are? That's a fallacy, but one that I believed in for a long time. Realistically, I could give a shit less if anyone knows me any more. And I don't give a damn about traveling 1000 miles away from home to teach people I'll never see again. Being "that guy" used to be something that I thought I wanted. Now, I want to be a good husband to my wife, be a good father to my sons, and be a good firemen to the people who need me the most. To hell with chasing fame, I just want to be the best fireman I can be.

 So, speaking of the differences in this site for the future. There'll be no more WTJ Facebook Page, because I don't promote me. I only want to promote good firemanship and that's it. In fact, I'll not share these articles on my own facebook (which I rarely use nowadays). I'll not post links to other sites, not unless I know damn sure who is behind it. There will be a few links, but rest assured there will be NO douchebags included. If you are reading anything I write in the future, it's because someone else pointed you this way. Honestly, this is an outlet for me. The writing will be infrequent, inflammatory, and infused with brutal honesty with no ulterior motives. I don't care to make a name for me. If you like it, cool and if not that's cool too.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Making Hay

"You've gotta make hay while the sun shines."  My old man said that more times than I can count.  It was a tenet he lived by and you can rest assured that he was the workin'est son of a b@#% anyone has ever seen.  His truth in that statement was simple, that a man should take every opportunity given to him because it may not be there tomorrow.  We will get into that in a moment.

Constant Reader (anyone a Stephen King fan?). You. I thank you. Never did I actually think there would be folks out there who read and respond to what I write.  I'm floored each time I meet a person that says, "I love your site!"  Those that have been here since the beginning and have been keeping count will realize that this is my 100th post.  Big deal, I'm not here to celebrate me.  I never thought I had 10 in me, much less 100.  Have I written things to ruffle feathers?  Sometimes.  Have I said things that can be taken the wrong way?  Absolutely.  Have I given the impression that I am a superior fireman?  God, I hope not!  Do I wish I could take back some of the things I've stated? Not at all, you see, these are my thoughts about this job.  I may not hit the mark every time, but I strive to.  Anything that I write comes from the heart of a guy that has a love for this noble profession no man can top. Perhaps match, but never top.  I still have the same love for this job that I did the night I got voted on my first department.  Sure, I may say things in an abrasive way, but it's not to criticize, it's to spark thought, conversation, and hopefully change when change is warranted.


Now is the time for the uncomfortable conversation.  Without you guys, I would have no forum to expel my thoughts.  With that said, I've dipped from the well of negativity and discord for long enough.  Sure, raising Hell about people who don't get "It" felt good and right and gained me lots of page views.  I won't lie, it feels cathartic to write something unpopular with many but shared and read by the silent minority in this awesome profession.  However, what I have realized is that which lies in the bottom of the well is nothing worthy of any more of my time.  Only the putrid and murky water of disharmony and separatism reside in the depths of negativity.  What about the good that still exists in this profession?  I'll bet my next paycheck that Ben Franklin worried about the generation following him.  Guess what, centuries later we are STILL going strong!

Back to my old man and his saying.  An opportunity has arisen that I would be a fool to pass up.  It's hard to say this, but it is time for me to move on.  I've cut my teeth here, written some things that I'm proud of, and hopefully made you think.  Am I closing the site?  Nope, but it won't be posted on quite as frequently.  Will I return to write more posts?  I'll be around, certainly in a different forum and perhaps sometimes here.  The time has come for me to take what I have to another level.  You'll see me around.  I'll still be brutally honest, because I've always said if you want sugar sprinkled on the top, the bakery is right down the street. Just know that I'll never be able to change me any more than a tiger can change his stripes.

Thanks for sharing the posts.  Thanks for giving me a place to come that is pure, without ads, or distractions, or bullshi#.  Thanks for liking the page, even though I have never invited or begged for "Likes".  Begging is unbecoming of a person.  Thanks for telling me you like it when you meet me.  Thanks for feeding my selfish little ego.  More than anything, thanks for reading.  I'll be around, just in a different place.  Pay attention and you'll find me.

Right now, it's warm on my face.  Standing at the edge of the field, the sun is shining and I have my scythe in my hands anticipating the work that lies ahead.  Thanks Dad, for the profound wisdom and the hands that guided me into manhood.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Awakening

This probably won't be my most popular post.  For those of you who have read my stuff for a while, you know that I could care less about numbers anyway.  To prevent folks from stumbling upon this site accidentally, I'm gonna sound a little vague, not tagging and linking and bragging and name dropping, but anyone with any sense will be able to make out the "who" and the "where".  I want to take the time though to thank to my IAFF Local who sent me.  Without their support and blessing, I never would have been able to attend.

I just returned home Saturday from our profession's largest conference.  It was my first time attending.  To say that it was a highlight of my career would be an understatement.  It was the best week of my professional life and during it I learned more than I ever imagined, mostly about my shortcomings as a fireman.

It's funny how the 21st century has made us at once instantly connected yet socially backwards.  This week was an opportunity for me to finally meet in person several people whom I have know for years, through e-mail, text messaging, phone calls, and the ubiquitous Facebook.  It's funny how you can shake the hand of another for the first time, yet you've got intimate knowledge of one another.   I can't seem to wrap my head around it, however it was refreshing to congregate with others for one week where the issues of our department, home life, personal agendas, and many other distractions were put aside for a greater purpose: TRAINING!!

So, from here I'm assuming you think I'll have a clever little synopsis of the events of the week with a neat little summary at the bottom.  No way I can do that.  To put into words the surreal experience I had would be fleeting at best.  All I can do is toss out a few photos, hit the highlights, and that will serve as my take on the week.

I traveled with a friend.  At the onset of the week, I had said that it would either make or break our friendship. Without a doubt, we have a stronger bond and are now even that much more focused on our tasks to improve our department.



I took an awesome Hands On course, and I can't say enough about how cool the instructors were.  All of us have encountered the "Instructor Extraordinaire" who has great knowledge but little tact and patience.




Each instructor showed absolutely no ego.  They were there for a singular purpose:  To educate.  I got to cut roofs and force VPS security systems with firemen from this nation's busiest companies.  I got to force doors with a legend and his son.  I even pried window bars off of a prop with one of the coolest guys a person could meet.

 N I C E   P E O P L E

To say that I'll utilize some of these things I've learned would by quite an understatement. Thankfully we were allowed to take photos of all the props and almost forcibly told to "Go home and PASS IT ON!!"  I'm already compiling a list of materials needed to replicate many of these props, and I can't thank the instructors enough.

Along with the HOT training, this conference is renowned for it's keynote speakers and it's classroom sessions.  During the keynote, I had an epiphany:  Yes, I get frustrated.  Yes, I piss and moan.  Yes, I want improvement.  Until I start to improve me, how the heck can I change 1200 others? It won't happen, I've gotta fix me first.  

The classroom sessions were outstanding, everything from garden apartment fires, to large area search techniques, to RIT operations, to firefighter free speech.  My favorite was one called, "Training Warriors to Succeed Under Fire." from Maj. Jason Brezler USMC and FDNY Squad 252.  Since I took the luxury of dropping his name, I'll pay him this compliment:  Had there been a bus to Parris Island outside the doors of the classroom, I would have ridden on the roof!  I pretty sure my wife would not have liked that much though, nor my sons! 


I found out what I thought to be true.  There is a group of firefighters and writers with a singular goal: To improve other firefighters tactically, mentally, physically, and philosophically.  After spending the week with them, I know it is a tangible thing, not some half baked pipe dream.  I've never been more proud to be involved with something I believe in more than this endeavor.  



The FSW community is not an exclusive club that you have to fit a certain mold to enter.  There is only one criteria- steadfast desire to improve yourself and others. That and the fact that you have to be a world class smartass and know the definition of jitbag.  I have found that a few of those guys, previously 21st century friends, to be some of my best friends in the world.  We talked at length, over several meals, beers, walks, and between classes.  We walked the streets of the city at night from place to place.  We visited the 9/11 memorial.  We took random photos of doors in alleyways (No, even at a conference we cannot turn "It" off) we ran a race, and we climbed stairs together.  All along the way, we were out late, up early, and always together.  I can't thank them enough for what they started and what we will perpetuate.

I participated in the 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb.

 Warriors Leading the Way


 Unfortunately, with 30,000 firefighters in town, we only had 200 climbers.  Despite the fact that only 200 registered, not a single one of the 343 was left lying on the table.






There were several firefighters who were carrying the names of multiple fallen members of the FDNY.  Once again, I had the honor of climbing for Gregory Stajk of L-13 as well as Dennis McHugh from L-13.


Those that have read the post know my regrets from my stair climb here at home.  Redemption tastes lovely.  But the climb wasn't about me.  It was about honor.  It was about respect.  It was about raising money for a worthy cause.  If you were there and did not participate, you missed out.

How do I wrap this up?  I have no clue... It will probably take me weeks to digest and process all of the knowledge that was imparted upon me.  Back to the top, when I said the most that I learned was about me.  That's true.  I have seen areas in need of vast improvement in me.  I have vowed to tone down the negativity.  I have rededicated myself to training, even on subjects I could care less about.  I have learned that I don't have it all figured out.  I have seen inadequacies and am working towards eliminating them.  I was awakened to who I am and who I need to be.  I may never rectify all of my shortcomings, but I'll strive for nothing but my best.

My happiest moment of the week?  Standing on the curb with my bags and the airport and seeing my wife and 3 boys pulling in to pick me up.  Hands down that was the greatest moment.  I missed them so much and I owe her nothing less than endless devotion.  While I was off having one of the most profound learning experiences of my life, she was left at home with a tribe of bloodthirsty Apaches.  What's left to say?  Thank you for reading!


Saturday, April 7, 2012

"It"

"It"....is hard to define, but I'm sure you have heard many descriptions.  Such descriptions as "You know it when you see it," or "Some have it, and some don't" fall way short of describing it.  While I would love to extoll the virtues of what "It" is, I'm at a loss for words but I'll try nonetheless.  I feel I have it, and I see many others that do.  Sometimes you can look a guy right in the eye, and know whether it dwells in him.  It is passion.  It is dedication.  It is a warrior mindset that stays focused all the time. It is always there.  Some call it "Ate Up", some call it "Die Hard", and others call it "Overachiever" when describing it.  I know this:  I can't simply turn it off when I walk out of the firehouse.  If I did, I feel I would lose it.  I am "Ate Up".  No doubt, if I were not, there is no way I would be writing this crap still.

Did I say "It" enough.  That's it with the philosophical BS.  Onto something tangible, to describe "It."

You've been there.  While out with the family, your wife says, "We are out of milk."  So, you head for the local grocery store, let her out of the car, and drive circles around the parking lot with the kids in the back until she emerges.  Instead of dodging mini vans and blue haired ladies pushing buggies, lately my "It" has been flaring up, so I've been taking the opportunity to drive around to the C-side of these buildings in my hometown to take a look at the doors.  (Hey, I've said a long time ago that there is something broken inside of me....)  Anyway, while driving around I saw a few doors that would be a little difficult to force due to limited access and supplemental locks.

Nice size up, Son!


 What surprised me was the comment from the backseat from my 8 year old. "That door has 3 locks!"  I was dumbfounded.  Some firemen can't even size up a door standing in front of it.  Here is an 8 year old kid, sitting in the back seat of a mini-van, looking at at door through a tinted window over 30 feet away.  So much for him being a rocket scientist, he's destined for the truck company....

This is where "It" took over.  Moving down the building, I found an open door to the backside of a pizza parlor with a slide bolt I haven't seen before. I hop out of the van, grab my camera, and after a few minutes of begging permission from the manager to take a photo, I gave up. I explained, "I'm a fireman, I teach other firemen how to overcome locks when a building is on fire, No this isn't a surprise inspection. yada, yada yada." He wouldn't budge. He probably thought I was a thief casing the joint!  Anyway, during my conversation with the manager, it seems I had forgotten my wife....

Here are the photos I got on a later date while in service on a company:




So, here is where "It" can get you sometimes.  While I'm trying to gain photos to educate firemen, I've forgotten my wife so now I'm rushing back to the front of the store where she is standing with a rapidly warming gallon of milk in her hand.  When I tried to explain myself, my plea for mercy was met with a roll of the eyes and a devilish grin.  While I may have "It", "It" sometimes annoys my wife.  Thanks for reading!



Thursday, April 5, 2012

Reality? Hardly!

This is what you are seeing: 



This is what you are not seeing, at least not as prevalently:



There is a stark difference between the photos and the fact that the first is being shared by many, but the second, not so much...  The picture was taken during the filming of a series of Training DVDs from Fire Engineering called Tactical Perspective.  This is a staged photo guys.

While I applaud the firefighters in the production of this series who have taken every avenue to add in realism to their series (which is awesome), I have nothing but utter disdain for the person that has taken the photo, chopped it up and added the "Reality/Motivation" text at the bottom.  Once that was done, it went viral and I've seen it for 2 days.  I cringe each time another person shares or e-mails it.

While I am all for the notion of making the public aware of the dangers we (potentially) face, I am totally against the notion of a fireman sharing this type of photo so that his gaggle of girlfriends will ohh and ahh over his proclaimed bravery.  You know it's happening, and why.  This is a cheap, bush league, look at me, attention getting, fallacy.  Knock it off.  If I'm the only one in the fire service who feels this way, so be it, I am not afraid to go against the grain.  If I am not, let me know.